modern day slavery
In his annual State of the Union address last week, President Obama began his foreign policy focus by saying, “If there’s one thing this new century has taught us, it’s that we cannot separate our work at home from challenges beyond our shores.”
Unfortunately, an insidiously prevalent challenge and hugely profitable crime facing the world — modern slavery and human trafficking — was not mentioned in the President’s list of current global concerns facing the U.S. on Tuesday night. To be fair, he has given a major address on the topic before. But no president has ever raised the issue in his big annual address.
That needs to change.
Incidentally, the President just finished a multi-day trip to India, home to almost one-half of the world’s enslaved people. In a surprise and welcome development, he brought up the topic in his last speech there — a pointed one on human rights — saying, “Together, we can stand up against human trafficking and work to end the scourge of modern-day slavery.”
Raising the issue in this context is an important step in naming the problem. Indeed, one of our country’s most effective tools for fighting slavery — the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report — consistently pulls its punches specifically on India, declining to hold them fully accountable for the massive level of human exploitation there. Given India’s size and wealth, our larger foreign policy apparatus deems it more important to avoid “risking” other geopolitical concerns with the diplomatic fallout that could come from telling the truth on slavery.
Currently there are more people in slavery than any other time in history. In response to this, there are hundreds of anti-human trafficking organizations throughout the world. People are working tirelessly for justice and restoration for the victims.
There are the men and women who are rescued, some are just children. There are also the rescuers, the judges and lawyers who bring justice, and the psychologists who help to rebuild wholeness. Countless numbers of people support the end and rescue of those enslaved by trafficking – especially sex trafficking. But where are the “Johns” - the men who play the role of Demanders in the Supply and Demand economics of this billion dollar international industry? I’d like to put some money toward restoring them.
Aren’t they an important aspect to this equation? Women and girls would not be victimized sometimes 40 times a day without those who pay for it. The captors would move on to more lucrative business ventures if there weren’t men willing to fork over money again and again for something that the world has decried as both illegal and immoral.
I’m surprised that this plays little to no role in our larger conversations about being serious in ending the sex slave trade. What is it that these men are seeking? Why are they paying for sex? Why are they choosing to have sex with someone who is clearly not there willfully? How much is power at play in this situation? What about the men’s ability to be in stable relationships? Why is there still a demand for enslaved persons?
Buying sex from enslaved people does not happen in a vacuum. There is a progression that includes various aspects. If we are serious about ending the sex slave trade we will need to address some serious issues within every nation in the world, particularly those with male-dominated societies that promote male aggression, provide women with limited or no educational and economic opportunities, and deprive men of solid and symbiotic relationships where they can find genuine intimacy and self-expression for their feelings.
Might I suggest 10 ways we can fight sex-trafficking:
Twelve year old Kathy* became caught up in a web of violence and forced participation in the commercial sex industry. She was taken from city to city and serviced many, doing what they wanted. Pregnant with her son, she found a way out or as she says, “God reached in and pulled me out of hell.” Now, many years later, she gives testimony to her story and strives to help other women “out of the business.”
My experience is with women like Kathy. By federal law, any minor exploited by prostitution or pornography is considered trafficked, and I am amazed at the courage of these survivors.
January is the National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Have you been made more aware or knowledgeable? Do you know that human trafficking is defined as “modern day slavery” because it controls a person through force, fraud or coercion — physical or psychological — to exploit the person for forced labor, sexual exploitation, or both? Women, children, and men are all affected by this crime.
The Disease: Modern Day Slavery
Human trafficking is a worldwide enterprise in the 21st century. In the United States, USAID has reported that between 12 and 27 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide.
Even in our American society, men and women are being sold and traded for labor or sexual purposes every day. According to the Freedom Center, three out of every four victims are female and nearly half of modern-day slaves are children. It is hard to imagine that this problem could go unnoticed for very long. The good news is that on Sept. 25, the president took notice of the disease that affects 17,500 American people each day.
President Barack Obama stated that slavery, “is barbaric and is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.”